Afghan President Losing Support among the Powerful in the Country
We asses with high confidence that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is very likely losing support
among the country’s power-brokers.
Ghani’s attempts to concentrate power in his office and seemingly at the expense of nonPashtun Afghan’s erodes his support.
We assess with high confidence that President Ghani will highly likely continue to be challenged
by political competitors.
The erosion of Ghani’s political base of support creates increasing challenges to his authority
from other Afghan power-brokers.
President Ghani Alienates Afghan Power-brokers after His Election
We assess with high confidence that President Ashraf Ghani is very likely losing support among
Afghanistan’s political power-brokers. The origins of the crisis reach back to 2014 and the fraud that
took place during the presidential election in Ghani’s favor and the power-sharing agreement that
followed to keep the election results from leading to conflict between Ghani’s supporters and those of
his contender, Abdullah Abdullah. Ghani and Abdullah had a deal reached, brokered by Secretary of
State Kerry, to share power where Ghani would be president and Abdullah would be CEO (a position
that does not exist in the Afghan constitution but was created as part of the deal). The following
information comes from open source reporting.
Ghani, who is Pashtun, was seen by many Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and others as stealing the
election from Abdullah who is half Tajik and had a large following among Tajiks and other nonPashtun minorities. Thus, the dispute between Ghani and his opponents is viewed by most of
the participants as struggle between Pashtuns and the rest of the population of the country over
which ethnicity controls Afghanistan.
Ashraf Ghani has precipitated a potentially very de-stabilizing political crisis by reneging on most
of the stipulations of the National Unity Government (NUG) agreement and using his power to
remove political opponents, some of whom have major political bases of power in the country.
It stipulated that the CEO position would become a prime minister position as Afghanistan
progressed toward a more parliamentary form of government, and there would be increased
devolution of power from the center to the provinces.
Ghani stripped Abdullah of any real power, which has alienated Abdullah’s base. He has not
held elections as promised and continues to delay them. Ghani has also not followed through
with the other promises he made as part of the NUG agreement that are cited above.
One of the most de-stabilizing actions taken by Ghani has been the removal and attempted
removal of provincial governors, some of whom are very powerful political figures in
Afghanistan. In December 2017, Ghani fired Balkh Province governor Atta Mohammad Noor.
Noor, who is a Tajik, refused to step down. In February 2018, Ghani fired Abdul Karim Khadam,
a Turkmen, who is governor of Samangan Province. He also refused to step down.
The Political Crisis Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better
We assess with high confidence that President Ghani will very likely face increasing challenges to his
authority. This is because he has alienated key power-brokers in Afghanistan. The following
information comes from open source reporting.
Ghani faces a growing and threatening opposition led by Atta Noor, who has rallied scores of
Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara and other elites to back him against Ghani. He has called for protests in the
country and denounced what he and other opposition leaders call the Ghani dictatorship. Ghani
has reacted to this opposition in mixed ways. He has tried to placate Noor and failed but Ghani
has also launched corruption and fraud investigations against politicians who have turned on
him. As a result of these actions, Ghani’s political base has shrunk severely, even among
Ghani faces opposition from his vice-president Abdul Rashid Doshtum, an Uzbek power-broker
who is living in self-imposed exile in Turkey because he faces criminal charges in Afghanistan.
Doshtum, who has a large political following, is also organizing resistance to Ghani.
Former President Hamid Karzai is exerting pressure on Ghani. Karzai is pressing hard for the
calling of a Loya Jirga, which almost certainly would not go well for Ghani. Many in Afghanistan
believe that Karzai is bent on coming back to power and is using the crisis to facilitate this.
The scenarios that could play out over the next year include a continuation of the current crisis with no
major fragmentation of the Afghan state, a non-violent fragmentation of the Afghan state, and a violent
fragmentation of the Afghan state. All of these scenarios are problematic for efforts to defeat or even
contain the Taliban and IS-KP insurgencies. But the third scenario would be the worst for efforts to
contain armed opposition groups in the country and could result in the Taliban making very major gains,
taking large urban areas.
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